Palma, the best place to live
Every sunset has its own beauty but there are three things that add to its magic. Location, location, location. Enjoying a drink on the rooftop terrazza of our hotel, we just arrive at the right time to see the last sunbeams put a warm orange light on this massive gothic sandstone facade, with its delicately carved portal that belongs to the Basilica de Sant Francesc. The setting sun transforms the sky from powder blue to a deep pink and the rose window above the basilica's portal is lit up like some great exotic bloom. The taste of the slight sea breeze puts a smile on our faces.
We can't wait to go out and explore Palma de Mallorca. Half an hour later we meander through the narrow alleys of the old town with its plethora of convents and palacios with secret courtyards behind arched portals. Its casco viejo, the historic nucleus of the city, is as charming as that of any Italian Renaissance town. Passing La Seu, the Cathedral de Mallorca, we soon arrive at Passeig del Born, a tree-shaded avenue and the city's social axis; thrums with life in the tapas bars, where the voices on the street change to German, Scandinavian and Russian. We buy some slices of coca – a kind of pizza topped with onions and red peppers – and eat it while we walk through the night. Palma has nothing to do with rambunctious resorts and nightlife-frenzy like in Ibiza town, but there are good reasons for a gentle after-dinner exploration to the Nassau Beach Club. From our table there we have a view of the cathedral on its citadel, lit up in its grandeur against the night sky. We begin to understand why the Sunday Times chose Palma as "best place to live" out of fifty famous worldwide destinations.
the best place to stay
Our hotel, the Sant Francesc Hotel Singular, is located in one of the oldest parts of the city of Palma. The renovated 19th-century mansion is a gem of neoclassical architecture and was the former residence of the Alomar family, who owned sugar cane plantations in Puerto Rico. Most of the original neoclassical features have been nicely restored. Respecting and enhancing many of its original features, such as beams, stone floors, wooden coffered ceilings, frescoes and murals with the finest quality finishes, all the facilities (expected of a 5-star luxury hotel) have been successfully incorporated.
The hotel is all about old-meets-new and features all characteristics typical of a magnificent Mallorcan Mansion - large entrance doors, majestic staircases, arches, paved inner courtyard and watchtower with dovecote. The attention to detail in this property is enchanting and the interiors feature a mix of elegant pieces of art by renowned designers and painters. Original works are displayed throughout the hotel, each carefully selected and many specially commissioned for the property. The 42-room hotel gives the impression of a luxury private home and has two restaurants, a gym and a panoramic rooftop terrace with pool serving up fresh Mediterranean flavours and regional specialties. For us, the hotel is the first choice in Palma and a place to come back to.
island of inspiration
Mallorca has been a big inspiration for generations of artists, most famous Joan Miró who settled there permanently in 1954. Agatha Christie visited the island, later writing a story about her stay. The English writer Robert Graves "Lawrence and the Arabs" - inspiration to Hollywood's "Lawrence of Arabia" - lived on the island for many years and is buried there. Frédéric Chopin spent the winter 1938-39 on the island and found inspiration to finish the Preludes, Op 28 that he had begun in 1835. And last but not least it must have a reason that the island is long a favourite of Spain's royal family who decamps to the Marivent palace there each summer.
La Ciutat, as the Mallorquines call their capital, creates a kind of magic with its unique architecture, palm trees and the deep blue of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a place where history and modernity melt together as 'a pocket-sized city that has it all', on a beautiful island.